While the outbreak of COVID-19 has turned 2020 into a year of uncertainty and impacted the rate of progress in some industries, the digital economy has continued to accelerate, unlocking new opportunities to support a hyper-connected world.
This has been particularly true in Singapore, where the government has been committed to building a highly connected city, embracing digital disruption as part of its Smart Nation program. By 2029, AI, IoT, blockchain and 5G will contribute an estimated S$49.79 billion into the Singaporean economy.
To help our customers ride this digital innovation wave in the Lion City, we launched our fourth International Business Exchange™ (IBX®) data center in Singapore – SG4 earlier this year. To get more insights about Singapore’s exciting digital landscape, I spoke to our Managing Director of South Asia, Yee May Leong, to get her insights into local market trends and understand more about her experiences as a woman in the technology industry.
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Jeremy Deutsch (JD); Yee May Leong (YM)
JD: You started your career as a Systems Analyst. How has this strong technical background helped you understand the Equinix business?
YM: From my personal experience, having a technical background helps give you a better understanding of specific customer needs, enabling you to ask the right questions and precisely assess the situation. In turn, it has also given me the ability to recommend suitable solutions that can help address their concerns.
At Equinix we are focused on providing the infrastructure needed to thrive in the digital era. This means it is crucial to understand the different components of technology that come into play to support our customers and how they can come together to provide seamless, integrated experiences.
JD: The technology industry has changed so much throughout the years. What do you see as the most significant change?
YM: If you compare technology to sectors like law and engineering, I would say that many of the changes in those more traditional sectors are probably more predictable. When you look at the technology landscape, the pace of change and innovation has continued to evolve to reach incredible speeds, enabling us to see huge leaps forward in ever shortening cycles.
So, from my point of view, it is not so much about what has changed but more about the speed of change and the pervasiveness of technology. It is evident that tech has changed how we look at the world, totally transforming how we communicate, collaborate, and engage with each other. It basically touches every aspect of life, both professionally and personally.
JD: We recently opened SG4 this year. How does it relate to Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative?
YM: Singapore is a hotbed for innovation and the government is making sure its policies help make advancements on that front with its Smart Nation initiative. The city-state was ranked the most innovative country in Asia by the 2019 Global Innovation Index, making it a global magnet to multinational companies and businesses. This is where Equinix comes into play. 
We have proved to be the digital infrastructure of choice to enable these types of smart nation initiatives, partly because we have ecosystems that span a wide array of industries, including finance and digital payments, content providers, and healthcare to name a few. All of these enable us to deliver the valuable, connected experiences expected from a smart society.
We also provide the infrastructure needed to support Singapore’s digital economy, enabling local enterprises to reach the rest of the world. Leveraging our global footprint in 56 markets and over 210 data centers, we are commited to helping our customers reach everywhere, interconnect everyone and integrate everything they need. At Equinix, customers can enjoy secure, direct access to a robust, interconnected ecosystem of 1,800 network providers and over 2,900 cloud and IT service providers globally. Through Equinix Cloud Exchange FabricTM (ECX Fabric), Platform Equinix now enables customers to easily interconnect their digital edge to clouds, networks, and business partners as well as establish datacenter-to-datacenter network connections on demand.
JD: Increasing diversity and achieving gender equality is a top priority at Equinix. It might be a cliché to say that the tech industry is skewed towards men. How have you seen the industry changed through the years since you first started out?
YM: I started my career in the 80s when tech was truly male-dominated, but I can see now that more and more companies are striving to increase diversity. Closing the gender gap for women is essential because technology is not just about selling a solution – it’s about connecting to enterprises and end users. Having a diverse team enables you to better understand a range of perspectives and better reach customers.
So, have I seen a lot of changes over the years? My answer is yes and no.
For sure that there are now a lot more women in the industry, but I don’t think there are enough at the top and until we see better representation at the highest levels, then there is still work to do.
To that end, Equinix continues to invest in the employee experience with a focus on attracting, inspiring and developing a diverse global workforce. Among the many internal support groups we have is EWLN – Equinix Women Leaders Network – established in 2011 to help develop women’s leadership and to connect and empower women through various programs.
Kuniko Ogawa, our new Managing Director in Japan, joined us earlier this year, meaning a third of our managing directors in Asia-Pacific are now women. This is a good start and a sign of more opportunities to come.
JD: As a successful woman with a long and varied career, you are a role model for younger women in the industry. Is there anything you do to support the next generation of female talent?
YM: Women in general are not as outspoken as men, which is why we need to create a platform that empowers talented individuals to speak, giving them an opportunity and the confidence, support, coaching, and mentoring to help them flourish.
I’ve been extremely lucky that my hiring managers took a chance on me and gave me the opportunity at a very young age, which enabled me to be where I am now. This gives me the drive to also give back and to help more women reach their full potential. With diversity and inclusion at the core of Equinix’s mission and values, we encourage and provide that platform for young female talent to grow and gain the confidence to reach senior roles.
Sharpening Singapore’s Digital Edge
I hope you found Yee May’s story inspiring and are excited by her plans for the Singaporean market. Stay tuned for the next interview in our ‘Getting to Know…’ series.
Do you want to know more about the interconnection landscape in Singapore and seize emerging opportunities? Download our latest Global Interconnection Index here to learn more about the latest trends and how Equinix can help you capitalize on them.